SALEM, IN - Grant Enfinger made ARCA Racing Series history Sunday afternoon, winning his third race to start the 2014 season, becoming just the second driver in series history to do so.
"The stars are just lining up for us," Enfinger said. "It's pretty unbelievable."
After leading the first 100 laps of the Federated Auto Parts 200 at Salem Speedway in Salem IN, Enfinger moved back to the front late in the race and took the lead when Ken Schrader hit the wall in turn one on the last restart. Schrader was leading when the re-start began with Enfinger in second.
"I wanted the chance to drag race him to the finish," Enfinger said. "I think he just blew a right front there. That's what happened. It was a lot of fun racing up front against him."
Spencer Gallagher finished second, Frank Kimmel third and Cunningham Motorsports drivers Austin Wayne Self (fourth) and Tom Hessert (fifth) rounding out the top five.
Josh Williams, making his season debut in the No. 6 Southwest Florida Cable Construction Ford, finished sixth, just in front of Mason Mitchell. Schrader ended up eighth with Cody Coughlin ninth. Kyle Weatherman finished 10th.
Gallagher was happy with his best finish of the season and tying his career-best.
"I love this place," Gallagher said. "It is such an exciting track. I am happy with how we finished."
Kimmel's team worked late Saturday to make repairs to his car after he hit the wall in qualifying Saturday. He had to start at the back of the field, but was eventually able to make his way to the front.
"I'm sure we passed more cars than anybody," Kimmel said.
Self, in winning the SCOTT Rookie of the Race, pleased a throng of about 50 family members who made the trek to Salem from the French Lick, Indiana area.
"I think I gained a tenth of a second every time they cheered," Self said.
Hessert earned a top five finish despite going a lap down twice.
"We did what we could," he said. "It's a little bit frustrating because we know we could have been better. We know what we have to do when we come back here in the fall."
Enfinger grabbed the lead out of the gate, sailing past pole sitter Justin Boston. He built a huge early lead and led for the first 104 laps until Mitchell grabbed the top spot and he immediately pulled away from the rest of the field until a caution flew on lap 124 for debris.
After a series of cautions and restarts, Schrader finally grabbed the lead. He and Enfinger raced tight for several laps until Karl Weber spun on lap 191, putting out the caution. That came just after Weatherman and Schrader got together, damaging Schrader's right front corner. He stayed on the track rather than pit and hit the wall after his tire finally went down.
"I wanted to get one more," said Schrader, referencing his last win at Salem in 1999.
Enfinger, meanwhile, took the lead and held off Gallagher to win his third consecutive ARCA Racing Series race. He is just the second driver in series history to win the first three ARCA races of the season and first since Ramo Stott accomplished the feat in 1970.
"I can't think Howard and Paula Bixman enough for giving me such great cars and allowing me to do this," Enfinger said. "We have such great equipment. The cars are so good right now and Kelly Kovski made some great calls about the car.
"We were not very good out of the trailer. We cut our first practice short and kind of had to just sit back and re-group and give us a chance to think about it. He had a list of changes and I had a list of changes. It just came together. I was shocked at how well we qualified."
Enfinger now heads to Talladega with a chance to win the first four races of the season - something that has not happened in the 62-year history of the series.
"That's going to be tough," Enfinger said. "You just never know what is going to happen at Talladega. But, we have a great plate program and I know we'll be fast."
ARCA Racing Series
Salem Speedway - Salem IN
Federated Auto Parts 200 - April 27, 2014
FIN STR NO DRIVER/HOMETOWN LAPS STATUS
1 2 90 Grant Enfinger/Fairhope AL 202 Running
2 12 23 Spencer Gallagher/Las Vegas NV 202 Running
3 18 44 Frank Kimmel/Clarksville IN 202 Running
4 7 22 Austin Wayne Self/Austin TX 202 Running
5 5 77 Tom Hessert/Cherry Hill NJ 202 Running
6 13 6 Josh Williams/Port Charlotte NC 202 Running
7 4 98 Mason Mitchell/W. Des Moines IA 202 Running
8 6 52 Ken Schrader/Fenton MO 202 Running
9 15 55 Cody Coughlin/Delaware OH 201 Running
10 14 99 Kyle Weatherman/Wentzville MO 201 Running
11 17 2 Thomas Praytor/Mobile AL 201 Running
12 11 17 Kyle Benjamin/Easley SC 201 Running
13 10 46 Brian Finney/Merritt Island FL 200 Running
14 16 3 Karl Weber/Ambia IN 195 Running
15 1 25 Justin Boston/Baltimore MD 177 Running
16 8 10 Blake Hillard/Owensboro KY 157 Suspnsn
17 20 18 Bill Catania/Westfield NY 124 Oil Leak
18 9 68 Michael Lira/Port Orange FL 87 Accident
19 19 11 Ryan Heavner/Lincolnton NC 86 Accident
20 21 73 Dale Shearer/Alhambra IL 79 Vibration
21 3 15 John Wes Townley/Watkinsville GA 77 Accident
22 22 69 Mark Meunier/Louisville KY 10 Brakes
23 28 48 Darrell Basham/Henryville IN 3 Transmssn
24 23 80 Barry Layne/Mims FL 2 Transmssn
25 25 66 Frank Kimmel II/Clarksville IN 1 Handling
26 27 97 Tim Viens/Daytona Beach FL 1 Electrical
27 29 06 James Swanson/Clarksboro NJ 1 Handling
28 24 0 Wayne Peterson/Pulaski TN 1 Handling
29 26 40 Chris Bailey Jr./South Park PA 1 Handling